Queer Eye's Tan France Reveals He Bleached His Skin at Age 10: 'I've Been Ashamed'
The fashion expert on the Netflix hit series Queer Eye, France, 36, explains in the memoir that his insecurities over having darker skin while growing up led him to make a drastic decision.
“When I was ten years old, I used to bleach my skin,” he writes. “I actually stole the cream from one of my cousins who used it often. To this day, I haven’t had the balls to tell her I took it, because, since then, I’ve been ashamed of the fact that I succumbed to the pressure.”
According to the reality star, the pressure he felt over his skin began at a young age and particularly stemmed from his family members.
“One of my best friends in the UK is Benghali and has beautiful dark skin,” France continues. “One of my family members saw us together and said, ‘That’s fine if that’s just his friend, but she’d better not be his girlfriend, because they might have dark children.'”
“The importance of being pale is very bizarre,” he adds. “The people around me certainly intend to pass on this belief, but I was aware of it and affected by it just the same.”
At only age 5, France, who grew up in England as the son of Pakistani immigrants, began thinking he wanted a different skin color.
“I remember thinking, ‘God I’d give anything to be white. I just want to be white, I just want to be white. I had been so conditioned to think that if you were white, you were automatically more attractive,” he continues.
Having recalled his family’s comments being a trigger for his skin insecurities, France opted not to tell them abut his decision to bleach his skin.
“No one else knew I was using it,” he explains. “I didn’t want family to know, as they were so sweet and accepting that I knew they would have stopped me because they thought I didn’t need need it. I kept the dirty little secret to myself. I’d only use it at night, before bed, when no one was going to catch me.”
“Let me tell you, that s— hurt,” he adds.
During his years of trying to find himself, which also came with struggles with his sexuality, France endured a lot of bullying, most of which came just from being different than the other kids in England.
He reveals, “Growing up, the other kids made fun of my siblings and me, and it came from both sides. The other brown kids would say we were coconuts — brown on the outside, white on the inside.”
France continues, “Due to the color of our skin, we weren’t accepted in white culture. So we didn’t quite fit in.”
Throughout the memoir, France details eventually overcoming his struggles with his sexuality and the insecurities he faced with his skin, and how he managed to find his voice in the world to become the first openly gay, South Asian man on TV.
“Thankfully, I matured, and the bleaching wasn’t something I wanted to sustain,” he writes. “Now, if you ask me what my favorite thing about my appearance is, I’ll say my skin. I think my skin color is beautiful.”
“As a ten year old, I could never have imagined that you could find my skin color beautiful, and I’m willing to bet most nonwhite people have thought the same thing,” he adds. “That is a sorry state of affairs.”